Philip Ouless

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Philip Ouless


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Self-portrait


Philip Ouless (1817–1885) was Jersey's most celebrated marine painter, and the only one of the trio of famous 19th century 'Jersey' artists - the others were Jean Le Capelain and John Everett Millais - who was actually born in the island. The son of an auctioneer, his grandparents emigrated from Coutances, Normandy to escape the French Revolution and Philip was born in St Helier


This sketch of St Aubin’s Bay was made in September 1873. The sketch shows St Matthew's Church and the windmill and coastal tower at Bel Royal. The windmill has long since disappeared, the coastal tower was blown up by the Germans during the Occupation, but the church remains and is now usually known as the 'Glass Church', because of the magnificent collection of Lalique glass which was used when the interior was refurbished. There were almost no buildings on the shoreline between Millbrook and Saint Aubin in the distance. Today, from the church westwards there is an almost unbroken line of buildings
This is said to be Jersey's oldest surviving photograph: An 1845 daguerreotype in the collection of La Société Jersiaise. It has been attributed to Philip Ouless and described as a self-portrait. While Ouless may well have taken the photograph - he advertised a portraiture service in the same year - it seems most unlikely that it was a self-portrait. He was 28 years old at the time and all portraits of him show him as thin in the face.

Paris studies

Philip John Ouless studied painting in Paris, then returned to St Helier where he established himself as a marine, landscape and portrait painter. He received numerous commissions from ship owners and masters, benefiting from the 19th-century boom in shipbuilding. As well as the new paddle steamers, Ouless painted early racing yachts.

Ouless’ views of Jersey were engraved and sold to the increasing number of visitors to the island. He recorded the visit of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to Jersey in 1846 in eleven watercolours, which were published the following year. Ouless also recorded a number of events, particularly shipwrecks, which were reproduced in the Illustrated London News. He died at 53 New Street, St Helier in 1885. His son Walter Ouless RA (1848-1933) became a portrait painter. Walter's daughter Catherine (1879-1961) was also an accomplished artist.

Ouless advertises his new portrait service in 1845

Photography

Philip Ouless was not only an accomplished artist, but he was a pioneering photographer, introducing the daguerrotype process to the island in 1845 after a visit to France, during which he received instructions from the first pupil of Louis Daguerre, who invented the process which created the first permanent photographs in 1839. There had been a demonstration of daguerreotypes in Jersey the following year.

The process, which produced a one-off image on a silvered plate, was the first photographic process in general circulation. It was widely used for commercial portraiture in the 1840s but could not survive the development of paper-based photographs which could be produced an unlimited number of times from negatives. The daguerrotype photograph of Ouless himself was found in a collection of his son, Clarence Ouless's photographs given to La Société Jersiaise in 2006, and is Jersey's oldest surviving photograph. It is not known whether it is a self portrait or was taken by one of his contemporaries, Henry Mullins. Clarence Ouless bought the complete collection of Mullins' negatives after his death, but the daguerreotype, together with some unexposed plates of similar vintage, was in an envelope which is thought to bear Clarence Ouless's handwriting, and if the date when it was taken was 1845, this was three years before Mullins set up in business in Jersey, using the calotype photographic process, which used negatives to produce paper prints.

No other photographs of or by Philip Ouless survive, but it is unlikely that an artist of his standing would have failed to attract business with the advertisement he placed in 1845 offering his new portrait service.

Family tree

Gallery

This gallery contains a large collection of Ouless works - click on any image to see a full-size version. Other Ouless works can be found by following the three links above

Maritime paintings

Les Ecrehous

Ouless made several trips to Les Ecréhous not long before he died, to sketch and paint the offshore islets

Miscellaneous subjects

Sketches from albums in the possession of Jersey Archive

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